11 June 2019

Westport 2019 in retrospect

Blouser's session, early Friday evening

Thanks to Des Butler for this report and photos:

Just got back on Monday afternoon from the 13th Westport Folk and Bluegrass Festival, and what a great weekend of music was to be had at Westport. Having attended all of the Westport festivals since its inception I had thought that it doesn't get better than last year's 12th festival, but this year it was exceptional.

The Friday night concert in Holy Trinity Church opened with a splendid performance from the Local Honeys from the US [above] who explained about and then sang some truly angst-filled ballads about the destruction caused by and then the demise of the coal mining industry in Kentucky. They were followed by Big Chimney Barn Dance [below], and they performed exactly as it said on the tin with some great old-time Appalachian dance tunes.

Saturday night's concert in the Town Hall Theatre was opened by a very talented and the youngest bluegrass band that I have ever seen perform, their ages ranging from 16 to 20 years. They were followed by A.J. Lee & Blue Summit [above, at the Wyatt Hotel on Friday night] who were for me 'band of the festival'. This band blew me away with their strong vocals and harmonies and great instrumentation. I couldn't wait to buy one of their CDs.

They were followed by McKay & Leigh [above, at the Clew Bay Hotel on Friday night], a duo who sing and play most of their own material and whose songs are full of wit, irony, and basic logic concerning the human condition, accompanied by some great guitar playing by both. A thoroughly enjoyable performance. The concert ended with the three bands taking the stage together for a rousing finale.

The Sunday night concert, which is Folk Night in Matt Molloy's Yard Bar, commenced with local talent giving great interpretations of songs of ancient lore, and the final official performance of the festival was given by Niall Hanna & Rachel McGarrity [above] performing some heart-rending ballads of unrequited love. A very talented duo on guitar and fiddle, and a truly enjoyable performance.

The entire weekend had some very talented bands playing in many hostelries throughout the town - Red Herring [above], the Rocky Top String Band, and Bluegrass 43, to name just a few. Add to all of that some great jamming sessions ably led by Tim Rogers, Bill Forster, Leo Hayes, Sean McGarr, and Dessie from Donegal on fiddle (to mention just some of the performers), and it all added up to a great bluegrass, old-time, and folk weekend.

The Lowly Strung, Sunday lunchtime show

All thanks for organising this extravaganza goes to Uri Kohen and his team who were working tirelessly throughout the weekend to ensure the smooth running and the excellent sound for our enjoyment.

BIB editor's note: The weekend's highlights for me (apart from meeting so many good people) were the old-time jam at the Clew Bay Hotel after the Friday concert; the astounding power and clarity of Bill Forster's Saratoga Star banjo; and the moving force of 'Amazing grace' sung by everyone in Holy Trinity church on Sunday morning, 'lined out' in traditional style by Linda Jean Stokley of the Local Honeys.

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